Nigeria records highest casualty figure in peacekeeping

By The Citizen

Nigeria had the highest number of casualties among international peace-keepers last year, according to the United Nations (UN), which honoured its peace-keepers on Wednesday at its headquarters in New York.

While 111 peacekeepers died last year, Nigeria alone had 17 fatalities, more than 10 per cent and Nigeria is the fifth largest contributor of peace-keepers to the UN with 4,736 serving worldwide.

On Wednesday, the International Day of United Nations Peace-keepers was observed, marking 'the fifth year in a row the United Nations will honour more than 100 Blue Helmets who lost their lives the previous year while serving the cause of peace.'

A statement from the UN Secretariat added that 'this sombre milestone is a stark reminder of the risks incurred by individuals who put their lives on the line when deployed to UN missions around the world.'

Among the peace-keepers who died in 2012 are 17 from Nigeria, making the country the UN member-state with the most human sacrifice for world peace last year.

The fallen Nigerian peace-keepers were listed as Staff Sgt. Emmanuel Abel, Corporal Julius Emmanuel, Lance Corporal Bashir Garba, Corporal Thomas Idu and Staff Sgt. Absalom Umar who lost their lives while serving with the United Nations Mission in Liberia.

Others are Lance Corporal Sunday Afolayan, Sgt. Omega Agbalo, Lt. Martins Anthony, Corporal Suleiman Bako, Corporal Fali Buluma, Lance Corporal Oko Idiku, Lance Corporal Sanusi Jibrin, Lance Corporal Inalegwu John, Sgt. Birabi Nkpara, Sgt. Joseph Ojelade, Lance Corporal Sarki Samaila, and Lance Corporal Abdullahi Shawai who lost their lives while serving with the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur.

In a message to mark the day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: 'To meet emerging threats and rise to new challenges, United Nations peace-keeping is adapting its policies to better fulfill its mandates to bring lasting peace to war-torn countries.'

The UN Secretary-General further said that while 'we welcome these advances, we acknowledge that peace-keeping will always carry risks.'

He added that unidentified assailants had recently ambushed and killed peace-keepers in the DRC, Sudan and South Sudan, while blue helmets serving in the Middle East had been detained.

The UN scribe disclosed that 111 peace-keeping personnel died last year, and more than 3,100 lost their lives during the UN 65-year history of peace-keeping, adding 'we salute their bravery and mourn their passing.'

The International Day of United Nations Peace-keepers was established by the General Assembly in 2002 to pay tributes to all men and women serving in United Nations peace-keeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives.

The General Assembly designated May 29 as the day, as it was the date in 1948 when the first United Nations peace-keeping mission, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO), began operations in Palestine.

This year's commemorative ceremonies come at a time when the services of United Nations peace-keepers continue to be in great demand. There are nearly 80,000 military personnel, 12,500 police officers, 17,000 international civilians and national staff serving in 15 peace-keeping operations on four continents.

'UN Peace-keeping is constantly adapting to new challenges,' said the Under-Secretary-General for Peace-keeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous. 'We are expanding not only in size but in the range of environments we are asked to deploy to, in the tasks demanded of us and in the tools we are using. Peace-keeping has never been more dynamic or more flexible than today.'

To honour the fallen peace-keepers and those who continue to serve in the cause of peace, several events were held at United Nations Headquarters in New York yesterday and across the world.

Ban oversaw a solemn wreath-laying ceremony in honour of all fallen peace-keepers, and made remarks at a ceremony where the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal was awarded post-humously to 103 military, police and civilian personnel who lost their lives while serving in peacekeeping operations in 2012, including the 17 from Nigeria.